I participated in a meeting this morning with an internal audit customer to review data needs for an ongoing audit. Over the last few weeks, my team had been attempting to gather some data for the audit, and upon receiving the data, we had some concerns over its completeness.
To minimize time lost in going back and forth with the audit customer regarding our questions, the objective of our meeting was to answer any questions regarding the data to ultimately ensure we had the information necessary to complete our audit. The meeting was quite productive and even wrapped up early.
Following our meeting, I was reminded how effective face-to-face communication can be for the internal audit process. We can quickly lose valuable time and create process inefficiencies when we over-rely on electronic communication. Just think back to a time in the past when you may have wasted time waiting for someone to respond to an email. I would guess we've all been there at one point or another.
If you've ever found yourself in one of the situations below, consider having an in-person conversation the next time you think about sending a message electronically:
- You sent an email to someone who was sitting less than 10 feet away.
- You had multiple back-and-forth emails before ultimately obtaining an answer to a question (or you never actually got an answer) or resolving an issue because the initial question wasn't clear or led to more questions.
- You sent an email that ended up appearing more like a short novel, causing the recipient to read the email several times to even comprehend the message.
- Immediately after sending an email, you walked over to the recipient of the email and asked if they saw or read your message.
- You re-read your message five-plus times before finally sending it to make sure it accurately reflected what you wanted to communicate.
- You used email to avoid tough questions/conversations.
- You questioned how long to wait to follow up when someone didn't respond to your initial message.
- You used instant messaging instead of talking to the person next to you (yes, I've actually seen this happen).
There are multiple situations in which face-to-face communication is not an option — for remote audit clients, when someone is traveling, or when multiple people may need to weigh in on a particular issue. In these circumstances, picking up the phone can be a good alternative communication method. Also, if you need confirmation of the communication and any decisions made for your files, a quick email confirming what was discussed in the face-to-face/phone conversation may be more effective than initiating the entire communication via email.
While email undoubtedly has its benefits, before you send that next email, pause and evaluate if that is the most effective communication method for the situation. Using the most appropriate communication channel for the situation will not only increase internal audit project efficiency, but also aid in building relationships with our audit customers and team members.